Posts Tagged: war


This is from a little treatise called, “The Challenge of the Present Crisis” by Harry E. Fosdick.  Written in response to the first world war.  Even more relevant after a second world war, the rapid increase of nuclear weapons, the growth of technology that makes taking lives easier and more remote, and as we are still in the longest war in US history.

"If religion has such a part to play in the program of internationalism, we, as Christians, are challenged to a searching examination of our faith and works, and to a fresh devotion to our cause.  One of the wisest and most picturesque explanations of the present crisis is attributed  to Bergson, the Frech philosopher.  He says, in effect, that the chief work of science has been to enlarge man’s body.  Telescopes and microscopes have increased the power of our eyes; telephones have stretched our hearing to some three thousand miles; telegraphs have made our voices sound around the earth; locomotives and steamship lines, better than the seven-league boots of ancient fable, have multiplied the speed and power of our feet; and French big guns have elongated the blows of our fists from two feet to twenty-five miles.  Man never had such a body since the world began.  The age of giants was nothing compared with this.  But man’s soul - there the failure lies.  We have not grown spirits great enough to handle our greatened bodies.  The splendid new power which science furnishes are still in the hands of the old sins - greed, selfish ambition, cruelty.  We must have a new access of moral vision and power or we are utteerly undone.

"As a thoughtful Christian stands before the challenge he must repent, for himself and for the churches, the lamentable inadequacy of our organized religion to meet the crucial need.  This war will fail one of its most beneficent results if it does not drive the sense of shame into Christian churches with a poignancy that no excuses can palliate.  In the presence of abysmal need, we stand tithing "mint, dill, and cumin, and neglecting the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness."  We are challenged by this war to a renovation of our popular Christianity, to a deep and unrelenting detestation of the little bigotries, the needless divisions, the petty obscurantisms that so deeply curse our churches, to a new experience and a more intelligent expression of vital fellowship with God.  Unless we can answer that challenge, there is small use in our trying to answer any other.  We must have a great religion to meet a great need.

"The saddest aspect of Christian history is the misrepresentation of Christ and the spoiling of his influence, not by irreligious men but by the official exponents of religion.  The belittling of religion by it devotees is the most tragic narrative of Christendom."


Why is the christian in the usa more supportive of war than this standard when the standard of Jesus is even more opposed to violence?


"Sometimes submission to God looks like sedition to the world… When Christians are ordered to violate their sacred beliefs, the state cannot reasonably expect obedience."

- Logan Mehl-Laituri, Army Sergeant, Iraq war veteran, and conscientious objector in Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism, & Conscience

"War will exist until that distant day with the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today."

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, WWII Navy Veteran and Assiassinated US President


"American media is replete with romantic depictions of battle, from Band of Brothers to The Hurt Locker. Marketing such profoundly personal experiences to a mass audience cheapens the pain of those who have actually experienced it. By subtly suggesting that combat is a place we can find honor, glory or revenge - or worse, entertainment - glamorous tales of warfare threaten to replace the hearts of flesh God has given us with hearts of stone (or maybe polished plastic). They embellish war, captivate our imaginations and condition us to disregard the incredible moral challenges that come with war."


Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism, & Conscience, Logan Mehl-Laituri (former Soldier and combat veteran)

Submitted by contributor, Shawn Duncan


"It is into this cauldron of violent ideologies that the teachings of Jesus comes as a shock: ‘Love your enemies.’ To preach this, with our lives, is to strike at the heart of the imperial culture that we live in." Mary Jo Leddy 

Church: Our voice, our heart, our words, our passion must be consistent with Jesus - not our political party, not our favorite news outlet, not our military, nor any other cultural ideology.


"O war, I hate you most of all because you lay your hands upon the finest qualities of human life, qualities that rightly used would make a heaven on earth, and you use them to make a hell on earth instead… This is the deepest charge against you, that you take our noblest powers and prostitute them to destructive ends."

- Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Challenge of the Present Crisis (1917)

Finally... a conservative's conservative!

The purpose of this site is to ask questions that challenge moral certitudes, to ask myself to rethink assumptions that run counter to my fundamental commitment to discover the way of Jesus.  Click the above title to be sent to an article in which Dr. Lee Camp of Lipscomb University dares to ask a questions that few are asking and few believe even needs to be asked.  It is beyond time for Christians to refuse the myth of redemptive violence in all its form and the accompanying exaltation of those who practice it and profit from it.


Posted by Shane Claiborne on Facebook August 6, 2012

Lamenting and learning from Hiroshima

Today marks the day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Here’s a really meaningful way to remember the day, by reading the words of George Zabelka, who was an Air Force chaplain that blessed the men who dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the years after the bombing, he was haunted by the horror of war and bombs and became a compelling 
voice for peace. Zabelka, who died in 1992, gave this speech on the 40th anniversary of the bombings. He left this message for the world. Let’s read his words today, and recommit ourselves to ending the horror of nuclear weapons and war. Here’s the speech.

The destruction of civilians in war was always forbidden by the Church, and if a soldier came to me and asked if he could put a bullet through a child’s head, I would have told him, absolutely not. That would be mortally sinful. But in 1945 Tinian Island was the largest airfield in the world. Three planes a minute could take off from it around the clock. Many of these planes went to Japan with the express purpose of killing not one child or one civilian but of slaughtering hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of children and civilians – and I said nothing.

As a Catholic chaplain I watched as the Boxcar, piloted by a good Irish Catholic pilot, dropped the bomb on Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, the center of Catholicism in Japan.

I never preached a single sermon against killing civilians to the men who were doing it… It never entered my mind to protest publicly the consequences of these massive air raids. I was told it was necessary – told openly by the military and told implicitly by my Church’s leadership.

I worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Civil Rights struggle in Flint, Michigan. His example and his words of nonviolent action, choosing love instead of hate, truth instead of lies, and nonviolence instead of violence stirred me deeply. This brought me face to face with pacifism – active nonviolent resistance to evil. I recall his words after he was jailed in Montgomery, and this blew my mind. He said, “Blood may flow in the streets of Montgomery before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood that flows, and not that of the white man. We must not harm a single hair on the head of our white brothers.”

I struggled. I argued. But yes, there it was in the Sermon on the Mount, very clear: “Love your enemies. Return good for evil.” I went through a crisis of faith. Either accept what Christ said, as unpassable and silly as it may seem, or deny him completely.

For the last 1700 years the Church has not only been making war respectable: it has been inducing people to believe it is an honorable profession, an honorable Christian profession. This is not true. We have been brainwashed. This is a lie.

War is now, always has been, and always will be bad, bad news. I was there. I saw real war. Those who have seen real war will bear me out. I assure you, it is not of Christ. It is not Christ’s way. There is no way to conduct real war in conformity with the teachings of Jesus.

…The ethics of mass butchery cannot be found in the teachings of Jesus. In Just War ethics, Jesus Christ, who is supposed to be all in the Christian life, is irrelevant. He might as well never have existed. In Just War ethics, no appeal is made to him or his teaching, because no appeal can be made to him or his teaching, for neither he nor his teaching gives standards for Christians to follow in order to determine what level of slaughter is acceptable.

So the world is watching today. Ethical hairsplitting over the morality of various types of instruments and structures of mass slaughter is not what the world needs from the Church, although it is what the world has come to expect from the followers of Christ. What the world needs is a grouping of Christians that will stand up and pay up with Jesus Christ. What the world needs is Christians who, in language that the simplest soul could understand, will proclaim: the follower of Christ cannot participate in mass slaughter. He or she must love as Christ loved, live as Christ lived, and, if necessary, die as Christ died, loving ones enemies.

For the 300 years immediately following Jesus’ resurrection, the Church universally saw Christ and his teaching as nonviolent. Remember that the Church taught this ethic in the face of at least three serious attempts by the state to liquidate her. It was subject to horrendous and ongoing torture and death. If ever there was an occasion for justified retaliation and defensive slaughter, whether in form of a just war or a just revolution, this was it. The economic and political elite of the Roman state and their military had turned the citizens of the state against Christians and were embarked on a murderous public policy of exterminating the Christian community.

Yet the Church, in the face of the heinous crimes committed against her members, insisted without reservation that when Christ disarmed Peter he disarmed all Christians.

Christians continued to believe that Christ was, to use the words of an ancient liturgy, their fortress, their refuge, and their strength, and that if Christ was all they needed for security and defense, then Christ was all they should have. Indeed, this was a new security ethic. Christians understood that if they would only follow Christ and his teaching, they couldn’t fail. When opportunities were given for Christians to appease the state by joining the fighting Roman army, these opportunities were rejected, because the early Church saw a complete and an obvious incompatibility between loving as Christ loved and killing. It was Christ, not Mars, who gave security and peace.

Today the world is on the brink of ruin because the Church refuses to be the Church, because we Christians have been deceiving ourselves and the non-Christian world about the truth of Christ. There is no way to follow Christ, to love as Christ loved, and simultaneously to kill other people. It is a lie to say that the spirit that moves the trigger of a flamethrower is the Holy Spirit. It is a lie to say that learning to kill is learning to be Christ-like. It is a lie to say that learning to drive a bayonet into the heart of another is motivated from having put on the mind of Christ. Militarized Christianity is a lie. It is radically out of conformity with the teaching, life, and spirit of Jesus.

Now, brothers and sisters, on the anniversary of this terrible atrocity carried out by Christians, I must be the first to say that I made a terrible mistake. I was had by the father of lies. I participated in the big ecumenical lie of the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches. I wore the uniform. I was part of the system. When I said Mass over there I put on those beautiful vestments over my uniform. (When Father Dave Becker left the Trident submarine base in 1982 and resigned as Catholic chaplain there, he said, “Every time I went to Mass in my uniform and put the vestments on over my uniform, I couldn’t help but think of the words of Christ applying to me: Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”)

As an Air Force chaplain I painted a machine gun in the loving hands of the nonviolent Jesus, and then handed this perverse picture to the world as truth. I sang “”Praise the Lord”” and passed the ammunition. As Catholic chaplain for the 509th Composite Group, I was the final channel that communicated this fraudulent image of Christ to the crews of the Enola Gay and the Boxcar.

All I can say today is that I was wrong. Christ would not be the instrument to unleash such horror on his people. Therefore no follower of Christ can legitimately unleash the horror of war on God’s people. Excuses and self-justifying explanations are without merit. All I can say is: I was wrong! But, if this is all I can say, this I must do, feeble as it is. For to do otherwise would be to bypass the first and absolutely essential step in the process of repentance and reconciliation: admission of error, admission of guilt.

I asked forgiveness from the Hibakushas (the Japanese survivors of the atomic bombings) in Japan last year, in a pilgrimage that I made with a group from Tokyo to Hiroshima. I fell on my face there at the peace shrine after offering flowers, and I prayed for forgiveness – for myself, for my country, for my Church. Both Nagasaki and Hiroshima. This year in Toronto, I again asked forgiveness from the Hibakushas present. I asked forgiveness, and they asked forgiveness for Pearl Harbor and some of the horrible deeds of the Japanese military, and there were some, and I knew of them. We embraced. We cried. Tears flowed. That is the first step of reconciliation – admission of guilt and forgiveness. Pray to God that others will find this way to peace.

Thank God that I’m able to stand here today and speak out against war, all war. The prophets of the Old Testament spoke out against all false gods of gold, silver, and metal. Today we are worshipping the gods of metal, the bomb. We are putting our trust in physical power, militarism, and nationalism. The bomb, not God, is our security and our strength. The prophets of the Old Testament said simply: Do not put your trust in chariots and weapons, but put your trust in God. Their message was simple, and so is mine.

We must all become prophets. I really mean that. We must all do something for peace. We must stop this insanity of worshipping the gods of metal. We must take a stand against evil and idolatry. This is our destiny at the most critical time of human history. But it’s also the greatest opportunity ever offered to any group of people in the history of our world – to save our world from complete annihilation